The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In
a recent article , I concluded that global carbon dioxide emissions will continue to grow rapidly in the foreseeable future. In this article, I look at the biggest offenders, both countries and fuels. Table 1 lists the countries and regions emitting the most CO2. China now is the largest emitter followed by the U.S. and Europe. In 1971, 57% of global emissions came from the U.S. and Europe. In 2009, their share had fallen to 31%. Adding China brings the 2009 share of these 3 to 55% of the world total. The emission of this group exceeds the emissions of the Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East combined. Note the rapid growth in emissions for China, India, and Africa. This will continue as their middle classes buy houses and vehicles. The growth in Middle East emissions is staggering, a reflection of their growing oil fortunes. The dip in emissions from 2007 to 2009 in developed nations is a result of less energy use during the global recession. Europe has been far better than the U.S. at limiting emissions. Perhaps U.S. performance would improve if it abandoned its current policy of keeping gas prices low and subsidizing dead- end renewables. Within Europe, Germany has been a stellar performer. It is now emitting less CO2 than it did in 1971.
China and the U.S. are large countries, so their high emissions are expected. In Table 2 I control for size by dividing each country's emissions by its GDP. When this is done, several things stand out. Oil producers and refiners have large emissions. And not unexpectedly, countries with severe winters emit more. But there is good news as well. Globally, tons of CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP have fallen 44% since 1971. The figures for Iraq (2009) and North Korea (1971) look unbelievable.
Table 3 provides the same data for the country and regional offenders that were presented in Table 1. As mentioned above, CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP are down globally by 44%. This is in part attributable to a declining share of manufacturing in global GDP. After controlling for size, CO2/$ are only greater in 2009 than in 1971 in Africa, Mexico, India and the Middle East. The emission ratios of seven countries on this list exceed the world average -- Australia, Canada, China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.
I conclude with some coal data. How dependent are the biggest country and regional offenders on coal? According to Table 5, China is clearly the most worrisome. It is not just a CO2/other pollutants problem. At current production rates, China will run out of coal in 30 years. This in part explains China's aggressive actions to find new energy sources including oil, nuclear and renewables.